Malawians face at least one more month of unreliable power supply as Electricity Generation Company (Egenco), now faced with a 121.2 megawatts deficit, says maximum generation capacity cvan only be restored by end March 2020.
In an interview yesterday, Egenco spokesperson Moses Gwaza three out of the four power generation machines at Kapichira Hydro Power Station in Chikwawa—each with a 32.4MW capacity—and 12 generators of two megawatts each are not working.
He said Egenco is waiting for spare parts sent to Europe and South Africa for specialised repairs. He said the spare parts will be ready by end of March.
Commenting on frequent breakdown of power generation machines at Kapichira, Gwaza said some of the lifespan of some of the machines is overdue. He said the equipment needs a major rehabilitation and modernisation after every 20 years.
He said: “The first phase of the Kapichira machines which is giving us much problems was commissioned in 2000. The machines are due for a major rehabilitation and modernization as some parts of the machines have outlived their lifespan and need overhaul.”
Gwaza said Egenco planned to undertake major rehabilitation and modernisation for Kapichira, but the project delayed because a similar project was underway at Tedzani III; hence, it was not practical to take out two power stations at the same time.
“Doing so could have meant massive blackouts for the country as generation would have been significantly reduced,” he said.
Gwaza said the breakdown of the three machines at Kapichira and 12 diesel-powered generators—10 at Mapanga in Blantyre and two at Kanengo in Lilongwe—has left Egenco producing an average of 200MW instead of the normal 320MW.
The development has negatively affected Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) which has since started implementing a four-and-half hours emergency load shedding effective Monday.
Escom has divided its customers into three groups—A, B and C. The load shedding hours are split from 8am to 12:30pm, 11:30am to 4pm and 3pm to 7:30pm.
Reacting to the power generation challenges, Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director John Kapito advised Escom to identify alternative sources of electricity internationally, arguing that Egenco is giving Malawians raw deal.
He also took a swipe at Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) for allegedly failing to punish Escom which he said is not meeting customers’ expectations despite demanding some of the highest tariifs in the region.
Said Kapito: “We are aware that Escom does not generate power, but it should have looked for other electricity generators around the region that could have given us the power we need to match with the high tariffs that we pay for.”
Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) is on record as having said that load shedding affects the economy negatively and slows down economic growth.
MCCCI president Prince Kapondamgaga said electricity ranked as a second most obstacle to doing business after high cost of finance.
Malawi continues to face power supply challenges from the national grid despite licensing a number of independent power producers (IPPs).
Most of the licensed IPPs are yet to rollout. Some of them, including one each in Dedza and Salima, were expected to take roll out by August this year, but are yet to add their power to the national grid.
Escom has set a 2022 target to meet electricity demand largely from the power interconnection deal with Mozambique currently being worked out. In December 2019, demand for electricity during peak hours stood at 303.1MW. Egenco generates most of its power through hydro with 136MW from Nkula Hydro Power Station (A and B), 102MW from Tedzani (I, II and III), Kapichira 129.6MW and Wovwe 4.5MW. Diesel generators have the capacity of 52.85MW.